A flamingo chick hatched at the Smithsonian's National Zoo July 29. Its sex has not yet been determined. The flock of 63 birds produces about 15 fertile eggs in a normal breeding season. However, the flock had irregular mating patterns this year; they produced only six eggs and did not construct nests that were sufficient to foster the eggs. Therefore, Bird House keepers are raising the chick by hand. They feed the chick a formula designed to mimic the crop milk produced by flamingo parents. Recently, keepers added flamingo pellets to the chick's diet. These pellets contain the carotenoid pigments that turn a flamingo's plumage pink. Keepers are working closely with the Zoo's Department of Nutrition to ensure that the chick is growing at an appropriate rate.
In the next few months, the chick will join the rest of the flock in the outdoor flamingo exhibit. Before it is introduced to the flock, the chick will stay in a holding pen where it can observe the adults until it is fully independent. The chick's feathers are fluffy and white now, but once it is on exhibit, visitors will recognize the chick by its smaller size and gray color. It will gain some pink feathers and its bill will be more pronounced at around 6 months of age. By its first birthday, the chick will have a plumage of light pink feathers. Flamingos' plumage turns a darker pink around two or three years of age.